Zack Greinke pitches against Tampa Bay Rays in his debut with the Angels. (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
Adding Zack Greinke to solidify the starting rotation might ultimately carry the Angels to the heights they seek.
Now they need to rediscover their offense.
Following a combined shutout by Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson and three relievers Sunday, the Angels lost to the Rays, 2-0, and will take a 23-inning scoreless streak into their four-game American League West showdown series against the Texas Rangers starting Monday in Arlington.
The Angels (55-47) got singles off Rays closer Fernando Rodney by Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick with one out in the ninth inning, but Albert Pujols grounded into a game-ending double play.
Despite watching his streak of 19 consecutive home victories end, Greinke provided a rich account of himself, striking out eight and compiling a string of 10 consecutive outs during his Angels’ debut.
The 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers Friday in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and minor-league pitchers Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg, was in a scoreless duel with Hellickson until the sixth inning.
Then, Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Matt Joyce connected for a two-out, run-scoring single to right field to score Sam Fuld.
An inning later, Carlos Pena led off with a double against Greinke, and on a 1-2 pitch an out later, Greinke threw a curveball that broke a foot in front of home plate for a wild pitch that eluded catcher Chris Iannetta and allowed Pena to score from third base.
Greinke threw 111 pitches in the outing, giving up seven hits and a walk.
Typically, that kind of outing is good enough for a victory, with the Angels ranking fourth in the major leagues in home runs this month and scoring three or more runs in 17 of their 23 games.
But offense catalyst Mike Trout missed Sunday’s game after bruising his left knee Saturday when banging off the center-field wall chasing a home run.
And Tampa Bay pitchers have surrendered only eight runs in six games against the Angels this season.
Greinke, who had a 3.44 earned-run average in Milwaukee, represented himself as a stability of effectiveness the Angels sought in owner Arte Moreno’s move to acquire a 28-year-old pitcher who’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
The Angels’ need for Greinke’s routine type of effort was amplified by the struggles of starter Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 earned-run average) and uncertainty attached to the strong right arm of rookie Garrett Richards.
Greinke’s first pitch as an Angel was lifted to left field for a single by Desmond Jennings, but the right-hander responded by striking out Fuld and Joyce (on a 92-mph fastball) to close the threat.
Jeff Keppinger grounded a hard single off shortstop Izturis' glove to start the Rays’ second inning. Greinke again rallied on a 3-2 pitch, getting Pena to ground into a double play with the Angels’ infield shifted to their right.
In the fourth inning, Greinke revealed something of what he’s made by rallying from a 3-0 count to Tampa Bay’s No. 3 hitter Ben Zobrist to get a flyout to center.
He then bent over forward at the discomfort of seeing plate umpire Greg Gibson give Joyce a 3-1 count, tipped his cap upward and regathered himself behind the mound before striking out Joyce, who went down swinging.
That grit was met by Hellickson (6-6), who retired the first nine Angels he faced, then stranded Izturis at second after a leadoff fourth-inning single by striking out Albert Pujols and getting Angels cleanup man Mark Trumbo to ground out to third.
Greinke extended his streak of retired Rays to 10 in the sixth inning when No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson struck a high fly that landed for a leadoff double in a triangle of outfield space between second base, center field and right field.
The pitcher got two outs, neatly fielding a sharply grounded comebacker by Fuld and catching Johnson in a rundown play. But Zobrist chopped an infield single over a leaping Greinke’s outstretched glove, causing the pitcher to roll backward. Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher visited.
And Greinke’s next pitch was swatted by Joyce to right, the Rays taking a 1-0 lead.
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